By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Five people accused of running an identity theft ring in the New York City area have been charged in a 394-count indictment with stealing personal information from hundreds of dental patients to buy Apple gift cards.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Thursday said the ring bought $700,000 worth of gift cards after fraudulently obtaining “instant credit” that Apple had offered online in conjunction with Barclays Plc’s Barclaycard, and then used the cards to buy Apple products.
The alleged ringleader was Devin Bazile, a former Apple sales associate.
Prosecutors said he recruited Apple store employees to misuse names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers that were stolen by defendant Annie Vuong from more than 250 patients at a Manhattan dental office where she worked as a receptionist.
While the ring operated mainly in 2012, bogus applications were being made in victims’ names as recently as one month ago, Vance’s office said.
Bazile was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he returned from vacation in Dubai, the office said.
Four of the defendants live in New York City’s Bronx borough: Bazile, 30; Vuong, 28; Joshua Haughton, 27; and Sharniqkwa Dukes, 24. The fifth, Ahmeen Evans, 26, is from Stoughton, Massachusetts.
Bazile faces 394 felony counts, including grand larceny, identity theft and scheming to defraud, while the other defendants face between 50 and 194 felony counts.
The Bronx defendants pleaded not guilty this week before state Supreme Court Justice Melissa Jackson. Vance’s office said. Evans has not been arraigned.
“The charges are very serious, and my client is planning to vigorously contest them,” Bazile’s lawyer Adam Freedman said in a phone interview.
A lawyer for Haughton declined to comment, and a lawyer for Vuong had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Dukes and Evans could not immediately be located.
Neither Apple nor Barclays was accused of wrongdoing.
The case is New York v Bazile et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 00043-2015.
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bernard Orr)